Another great post from Jessica over at Taking care of children can be a very daunting task, especially when they are sick. Learn more about what to do if your child has a seizure as a result of having a high fever.

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Febrile Seizures in Children

Fevers are common in children but seeing a child-age patient jerking and twitching in front of you might cause a panic, most especially if you are not familiar with the nature of febrile seizures in children.

An infant or toddler with a body temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher might experience febrile seizures. The seizures can last for a few minutes and can trigger a scare for nurses, parents, or their caregivers.

Febrile seizures, also known as fits or convulsions, generally do not bring complications or cause permanent and lifelong harm to the child.

What causes febrile seizures?

Fever in children develops due to common illnesses caused by a viral or a bacterial infection. A child with infected ears, flu, or roseola can end up with a high fever that sets off a febrile seizure.

The risks might increase following a DTP or MMR vaccination since a child normally develops a fever after its injection. There are, however, no long-term effects and it should be emphasized that the fever triggers the febrile seizures and not the vaccine.

Who are at risk of febrile seizures?

  • Infections in children make them prone to having febrile seizures. However, not all fevers will lead to a seizure. In fact, only 2 to 5 in every 100 children experience this condition.

  • Age. Children between the ages of 6 months to 6 years old usually experience febrile seizures. It's most crucial, however, among kids between the ages of 14 to 18 months old.

  • Family history. Some children can also susceptible to febrile seizures due to their family’s medical history. A study has shown that convulsions might be genetically linked and therefore hereditary.

What happens during a febrile seizure?

The seizure begins mildly and strikes within the first few hours of a high fever. It escalates to a severe shaking in a matter of minutes. As a nurse, you need to watch out for the following signs:

  • The child has disturbed breathing.

  • The child looks odd and strange in fleeting moments.

  • The child’s body stiffens or twitches.

  • The child’s skin seems darker.

  • The child looks sluggish and dehydrated.

The child might also lose consciousness while the arms and legs continue jerking. Convulsions can last for a minute or two but there have been reported cases where the condition went on for 15 minutes.

What should you do if the child has a febrile seizure?  

The most important thing to do in case of a febrile seizure is to stay calm. You’ll need the presence of mind in order to help your patient and prevent injury.

  • Make sure that there is nothing around the child that she can hit or strike, such as sharp and hard objects.

  • If possible, settle the child on a large bed. Take note of the time the seizure started and ended.

  • Be careful not to hold the child down as the jerking movements of the hands and feet might be too forceful and restraining the child can lead to injuries.

  • Turn the child’s head and body to the side to prevent choking. Let the saliva flow out of the child’s mouth.

  • Don’t force open the child’s mouth and put anything inside, such as a fever medicine, as her jaw or teeth might end up broken. The child will still be able to breathe fine despite what’s going on.

  • Call 911 if the seizure persists for more than five minutes and you are not already in the hospital.

  • If the convulsion stops, however, continue to let the child lie down on her side until you get proper medical assistance.

How to prevent febrile seizures?

When the child has a fever, it is important to monitor the body temperature through the use of a reliable and an accurate thermometer.

The convulsions stop on their own but you can prevent it from reoccurring by giving the child a fever medicine as ordered by the doctor, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as soon as you know that he or she is burning up.

In some cases, however, the doctor might prescribe anticonvulsants. Always follow the doctor’s orders and give the medications as scheduled so that you can keep the fever under control.

What happens after a febrile seizure?

The prognosis for febrile seizures is generally favorable and the child will eventually outgrow this condition. Forty percent of children who experience convulsions, however, are likely to have another one within two years, according to experts.

You should also take note that about one percent of adults who've had febrile seizures as children can develop epilepsy later in life but this might also be indicative of underlying conditions. For your peace of mind and to ensure your patient’s overall wellness and health, fully inform the doctor and request tests to rule out other causes of the seizures.

Author Biography

Jessica Hegg is the content manager at  Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle. Through her writing she works to share valuable information aimed at overcoming obstacles and improving the quality of life for others.

AuthorCourtney Tracy